4 Michigan groups get $2.5M to sign up uninsured

4 Michigan groups getting $2.5M to help people sign up for health insurance under new law

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Four Michigan organizations will get $2.5 million from the federal government to help people sign up for insurance under the new health care law.

Grants announced Thursday by the Obama administration will be used to hire and train outreach workers. Enrollment for the law's new coverage options starts Oct. 1, and benefits kick in Jan. 1.

The Navigator program is being closely watched in Michigan because the GOP-led Legislature rejected federal money to do state-directed consumer assistance despite requests from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to accept the funding.

The group getting just more than half of the $2.5 million is Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, whose network is expected to reach low-income uninsured residents in every region across the state.

Others receiving money — about $600,000 more than expected earlier — are Community Bridges Management Inc., the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services, and American Indian Health and Family Services of Southeastern Michigan.

Just five states will spend less per capita than Michigan to get the word to uninsured residents about how to enroll for medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to a recent Associated Press analysis.

Navigators will walk people through the process of buying private insurance from a new federally run marketplace, or exchange. They will help people estimate their family income for 2014, important in determining eligibility for federal tax credits to help pay the cost of coverage and eligibility for government-provided insurance such as Medicaid.

The U.S. government previously awarded $3.8 million to roughly 30 low-income community health clinics in Michigan to hire about 70 workers to help sign people up for insurance.

Their job won't be easy. They must find a hard-to-reach group of 1.2 million mostly working poor and young people without insurance, many with a high school education or less. Nearly eight in 10 of Americans eligible for insurance exchanges don't know about it, according to Enroll America, a nonprofit trying to spread the word about the health overhaul.

"The new marketplaces will provide unprecedented access to affordable and quality health insurance to individuals and families throughout Michigan and the nation," said U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich. "The navigators announced today are going to play a vital role in ensuring that consumers have the information they need as they shop for and choose their health insurance plans."

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